It was at the dinner table, Sunday evening, and the kids and Mom were telling me about the morning service where some brave Ugandan kid got up in front of hundreds of university students and adults too and boldly rhymed off a poem expressing his sincere wish that Ugandan parents would just listen to their children more.
(I had this very problem in my own German – Canadian home when I was a kid, although I haven’t given it much thought in my subsequent parenting years when I allow my own kids to express themselves liberally every Monday and Thursday between midnight and 12:01 a.m.)
“Well,” I said. “Ugandan kids are raised more like I was raised. You know what Opa would say all the time to me and your Tante Heidi when we were kids.”
My three kids, who are usually quite astute with these sorts of big hints, just looked at me.
“You know,” I said. “I’ve told you this before. Lots of times.”
“You know,” said Mom. “What would Dad’s dad always say to him?”
More silence and blank stares.
“I’m going to write a poem on how children ought to listen better to their parents!” I said. “You know. Opa would say … children are to be …. seen … and …. not ….”
“Heard!” I said. “That was Opa’s great line. Children are to be seen and not heard!”
This is when, strangely enough, right there at the table, I broke out in song, big electric guitar in hand (sort of), big 80s hair down to the floor (sort of), all shaking wildly in a rendition of an old Petra song called, you guessed it, Seen and Not Heard.
“Hey look at Dad!” said the kids, eyes big.
Then I got our tablet and portable speaker and put the little stereo between the chicken and carrots and, for the benefit of my very quiet children, found that old Petra song online and played it with some volume, yes, louder, “Seen and Not Heard,” which actually is about God’s children and how those children, those who carry God’s name, should really think about this, how it really is much better to be seen but not heard.
The world, after all, has already heard it all, or at least thinks it has, but is often scratching its head and looking hard for some sort of evidence of all that blathering, soul-felt conviction.
This, the wild Petra song and Dad leading it, caused quite a stir and look of wonder to appear on Liz’s face, while Hannah jumped up to dance like a crazy woman and Jon stood on his head, which he always does when he’s excited.
Then it all finished and we cleared the table and did our Sunday evening routine and wondered what in God’s good, green earth had possessed us.
Dad: “You know. If it wasn’t for Petra, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”
Mom: “Well, thank you, Petra.”